Chatham chooses supervisor, 2 on board

CHATHAM–There is a full slate of candidates running for the Town Board this November. Maria Lull is running for reelection after one term as Town Supervisor. She is on the Democratic and Conserve Chatham Now Party ballot lines. Donal Collins is running against her on the Republican and SAM ballot lines. There is a third candidate on the ballot–Richard W. Hallock–on the Conservative Party line but he has dropped out of the race. The supervisor term is four years.

For Town Board, Michael A. Richardson and Gabriella N. Sperry are running for the two open seats on the Democratic and Chatham Unity Party lines. Abi Mesick and Vance Pitkin are running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines. The Town Board seats are also four-year terms.

Town Justice James Borgia-Forster is running unopposed for reelection on the Democrat and Republican lines.

Candidates were sent questionnaires for this story.


Donal Collins

Donal Collins, 44, is running for Town Supervisor on the Republican and SAM (Serve America Movement) Party lines. He is currently a registered Democrat who says he is changing to No Party Registered.

Mr. Collins is a graduate of the Chatham Central School District. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tulane University in mechanical engineering. He is employed by Nancy Scans/ 3D PhotoWorks in the Village of Chatham and he sells beef, hay, compost, eggs and small fruit from his property. On Mr. Collins’ Facebook page, Donal Collins for Town Council, he writes, “With my partner Abi, and step sons Ethan and Jacob, we have carried on the farming tradition.”

In his candidate profile, Mr. Collins wrote, “I have always been amazed at the myriad of opportunities that Chatham provides to its wide cross section of residents. However, in the last few years I feel that the thrust of policy generation, predominantly with the proposed zoning, does not accurately represent the beautiful and broad gamut of our population. Those with young families or small businesses or farms often have a deficit of time, and their voices are going relatively unheralded in the government that is tasked with serving them. I give due respect to the accomplishments of the current Town Board. I will continue to use the citizen-based finance oversight program that they inherited and utilized. However, the lack of trust that has manifested within this new zoning proposal has brought us to an impasse, and I insist upon the need for new leadership. With unity and involvement from all we can truly move Chatham forward.”

Maria Lull

Maria Lull, a registered Democrat, has served as town supervisor for one term and she was a Town Board member from 2010 to 2016. She was deputy chair of the town’s Planning Board for 14 years before being elected to the Town Board. She has been on the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Chatham Ethics Committee, Crellin Park Building Committee, the Broadband Committee, Agricultural Partnership Committee, Chatham Keep Farming Committee, and worked on original committees for Chatham Comprehensive Plan development. She is running on the Democratic and Conserve Chatham Now Party ballot lines.

Ms. Lull was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Chatham Center. Her partner is Ken Davies. She has a bachelor’s of science in business, management and economics, and an associates of science in business administration. She is a state licensed Real Estate Broker and the owner of Schoenfeld French & Lull Real Estate.

In the community, Ms. Lull is a member of the Tri-Village Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary, Tri-Village Rod & Gun Club and Old Chatham Hunt Club. She is a past president of the Northern Columbia County Rotary, has been on the Pastoral Council at St. James Church in the Village of Chatham for 26 years as well as the chair of the church’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. She is a past director of the Columbia Greene Memorial Hospital Foundation, and was president of the Columbia County Historical Society board, as well as a board member of the Columbia County Coaching Society and the Columbia County Council of the Arts. She was on the board of the state Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Ms. Lull has was also the president of the Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors and Columbia/Northern Dutchess MLS. In 2007-08 she was named Realtor of the Year from the Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors.

In her candidate statement, Ms. Lull writes, “Two top issues facing our town: the high property taxes and development pressure. The last three years’ property taxes have been stable and well under the state mandated 2% tax cap. This policy will continue with my re-election to ensure that taxpayers understand how their tax money is spent and why.

Development pressure and maintaining the rural character and scenic beauty of our town will be a challenge. In my next term, I pledge to continue our inclusive, bi-partisan committee system by appointing sub-committees within each of our diverse hamlets and at Kinderhook Lake to recommend land-use policies for their respective communities.

I delivered transparency and community involvement in local governance by involving people of diverse backgrounds and experience in establishing citizen-based committees to advise me and the Town Board on important issues. Today over 50 citizens serve on eight committees.”

Town Board seats

Abi Mesick

Abi Mesick, 53, is running for Town Board on the Republican, Independence and Conservative ballot lines. She is not enrolled in a political party. She was on the Austerlitz Town Board for 4 years.

Ms. Mesick is self employed. She has a B.A. from Columbia University, where she majored in cognitive science.

She is a former Tower Club and Ladies Auxiliary member in Austerlitz.

In her candidate profile, Ms. Mesick writes, “My parents, Dr. Baruch Davis and Roberta Davis spent most of their lives helping people here in town. Children learn what they live. I was taught to be helpful and accepting of people from all walks of life. I was encouraged to ask questions, be willing to update opinions as new information comes to light, and to never stop learning. As word spread that there was new zoning coming down the pike that would hurt our town, and that it was based on an outdated comprehensive plan, and worse yet, it was not just a little update but rather a sweeping, overreaching, suburban-like proposal, I realized I could not sit back and watch from my home. I am an avid grant writer, and as a sole proprietor for decades, I am comfortable dealing with finances. We will restore trust and govern this town in a responsible, open, and sustainable fashion.”

Vance Pitkin

Vance Pitkin 67, a registered Republican, is running on the Independence, Conservative, and Republican Party lines.

He was born in Vermont and lives in Old Chatham. He is the owner of a furniture restoration and repair shop Pitkin Co. Refinishers in the Village of Chatham.

He has been a Columbia County Volunteer Firefighter since 1992, and an EMT for 6 years. Mr. Pitkin is a member of the Hudson Old Time Power Assoc., NE 2 Cylinder Club, which has been involved with running the antique engine exhibit at Columbia County Fair for the past 7 years. He and his wife, Jennifer Lawrence, also run a small horse farm in Old Chatham.

“As an independent small business owner for most of the past 40 years I have had to develop many skills, including communicating clearly with clients and employees, and balancing the need to keep prices affordable while generating enough income to keep the bills and taxes paid. I see many parallels between this and the skills needed to be a responsive and effective Town Board member, listening to all resident’s concerns while working within a balanced budget that maintains reserves for a rainy day. The current board’s handling of the proposed new zoning law has created an atmosphere of mistrust and uncertainty and if elected I would make it a priority to improve the transparency and communication needed to restore trust in our local government.”

Michael Richardson

Michael Richardson, 67, is a registered Democrat running for the Town Board on the Democratic and Chatham Unity Party lines. He was appointed to the board in November of 2018 to finish the term of former board member Landra Haber.

Mr. Richardson was raised in southeast Nebraska and now lives with his partner, Joanne DelRossi, in the Village of Chatham. He has degrees from Nebraska University (agriculture) and Cornell University (labor relations). He is a retired municipal consultant for workforce planning and labor relations. He served on the Albany County Legislature from 1992 to 2003.

In the community Mr. Richardson is involved with the Tendai Buddhist Institute. He was awarded a Citizen Action–Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award, Environmental Advocates–Public Official of the Year, and Metroland Local Hero of the Year.

“Appointed just 11 months ago to fill a vacancy on the Town Board, I am now a candidate for a full term because I am very concerned that others could undo the sound fiscal planning and precision budgeting that we have accomplished.

In January 2016, the outgoing administration left a negative fund balance of $225,000 (a huge deficit for a total budget of $3 million). At that time I was asked to co-chair a citizens-based finance advisory committee to develop a new budget and institute sound fiscal practices. Hard, prudent measures were taken and the budget was balanced within one year.

Today, the town has a fully transparent, line-item budget that taxpayers can easily access. Further, the town now has a Fund Balance and Capital Reserve Policy, which not only provides adequate funding for our roads, buildings and parks but also protects taxpayers against unforeseen emergency expenditures.”

Gabriella N. Sperry

Gabriella Sperry, 74, a registered Democrat, is running for the Town Board on the Democratic and Chatham Unity Party lines. Ms. Sperry is currently the Planning Board chair for the town.

She was born in Germany and now lives in Malden Bridge. Ms. Sperry has a B.S. from Queens College, and M.B.A. from NYU Stern School of Business.

She has served on the Citizens Finance Committee for the town, is co-chair of Pastoral Council at St. James Church in the Village of Chatham, and board president for Camphill Village Copake.

In her candidate statement, Ms. Sperry wrote, “Nearly four years ago when I was appointed chair of the town’s Planning Board, I asked each of the six members of the Planning Board to develop an expertise on at least one part of the planning and zoning laws. This ‘team approach’ led to competent and through assessments of the applications before the board.

For too many years the previous Town Board neglected updating the town’s planning, land-use and zoning practices. The town’s land use code was last updated in 1972. This often left both the Planning

Board and the Zoning Board with incomplete fuzzy guidelines to apply to building applications.

If elected to the Town Board, I will bring this experience and team approach to the town’s planning, land use and zoning process that balances growth with preservation, stimulating smart economic development while protecting our rural, agricultural heritage.”

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